Krolikarnia Park, Warsaw, Poland. Photo: © Marek and Ewa Wojciechowscy / Trips over Poland, via Wikimedia Commons.
By Debbie and Ed Mucha
Our “Journey” was in the planning stages since mid-2014 as I began writing various Archive Offices in Poland to see if family records might be available. All this occurred after I had exhausted contacting various Parish offices in the USA. I found some info but not earlier files as I wanted. As I’d received positive replies from District Archiwums (archives) in Lomza, Dzikiewicz and Sanok, Poland, I started laying out our actual routes and stays. I planned for my wife Debra & I to maximize our time in Europe by seeing places of interest along the road to Poland and back.
Since we were going “on the cheap”, via US Military Space-A travel, I allowed extra time for some flight delays (always inevitable). This is how it evolved: We departed our home in South Central VA on the morning of 13 Sept, planning to fly from Dover AFB, DE after an overnight stay to relax from a six hour road trip. It turned out that the Monday flight from Dover to Ramstein AFB, Germany had been canceled, with nothing scheduled for next two days. I then checked the flight schedules from McGuire AFB, NJ and found that there were several flights going out late Monday as well as Tuesday. Monday at noon we headed up the Jersey Pike for McGuire, a 2-hour ride we had already done several times previously for same reason – cancellations.
On arrival at McGuire I met a Passenger Terminal Agent/friend who advised me that there was a flight departing for Spangdahlem at 0100 on 15 Sept. We signed up for this flight, got all our paperwork, drove over to the Commissary to stock up on some snacks for the flight and then had dinner on base. We had booked a room so we used it to change clothes and kept it “just in case”. About 2200 we were called for the flight (C-17 and 35 seats), I left Deb at the Terminal with our baggage and took the car to Long-Term parking, made sure all lights were out and it was locked.
It turns out (as usual) there was a slight delay in boarding. We finally boarded a cargo-loaded aircraft. The seats are “Paratroop” style, where you sit facing center aisle, cargo is the military’s priority, not comfort. However, I learned long ago to carry a roll-up foam camp mattress which passengers can use to spread out on the deck after takeoff and when the lights are turned down low. The military also furnishes, for $5.00 per person, box lunches which are sufficient to take the edge off of hunger. Departing around 0300 it was a quiet, 7.5-hour flight.
We arrived at the German Air Base at Spangdahlem, North of Trier, Germany at approximately 1730, Tuesday, 15 Sept. I had booked ahead a room at the Eifel Arms Inn which we went to by taxi from the Terminal. It turns out that the main building was full so we were billeted another short taxi-ride away. We thought that sleeping would be “touch & go” as A-10s were doing just that. Luckily, ops concluded at 2000. Since we had no transportation we called to have the on-base pizzeria deliver pizza, salads and a couple of bottles of soda. After taking soothing, hot showers we went to sleep so we would be up early to arrange transportation to Ramstein, where we planned to relax for a few days, pick up our rental car, and then head across Germany to Poland.
We were able to catch the daily Shuttle Bus to Ramstein AB and departed Spangdahlem at 0930, arriving at Ramstein at 1130. We took a taxi from the Base to a hotel we’ve stayed at previously. It is always a delight for us to return and see old friends and chat about family and life. While there we were also able to meet with some American friends living in Ramstein and enjoy evenings out with them. Plus, we have an Italian restauranteur friend, married to a Polish woman, who own a local establishment (Lanciano) where we love to go and enjoy excellent Italian foods with a German-Polish flair. And our rental car agent is also a friend whose father we had previously dealt with until he retired. Familiarity does not breed contempt!
Deb Mucha in Restaurant Lanciano, Ramstein, Germany.
On Thursday, 17 Sept. we drove to St. Avold, France, to visit the American Military Cemetery, where my father has remained since November 1944 and his service in the 26th Yankee Division. This is a truly beautiful, peaceful, well-cared for piece of America in France, and is an almost annual stop for us. Afterward we GPS’d our way to a LeClerc Super Marché (a super market which we love for the variety of everything imaginable). We stocked up on seltzer water, baguettes, chips, smoked sausage,